The standard enthalpy of formation or standard heat of formation of a compound is the change of enthalpy that accompanies the formation of 1 mole of a substance in its standard state from its constituent elements in their standard states (the most stable form of the element at 1 bar of pressure and the specified temperature, usually 298.15 K or 25 degrees Celsius). Its symbol is ΔHf
O or ΔfH O.
For example, the standard enthalpy of formation of carbon dioxide would be the enthalpy of the following reaction under the conditions above:
The standard enthalpy of formation is measured in units of energy per amount of substance. Most are defined in kilojoules per mole (kJ mol−1), but can also be measured in calories per mole, joules per mole or kilocalories per gram (any combination of these units conforming to the energy per mass or amount guideline). In physics the energy per particle is often expressed in electronvolts which corresponds to about 100 kJ mol−1.
All elements in their standard states (oxygen gas, solid carbon in the form of graphite, etc.) have a standard enthalpy of formation of zero, as there is no change involved in their formation.
The standard enthalpy of formation is equivalent to the sum of many separate processes included in the Born-Haber cycle of synthesis reactions. For example, to calculate the standard enthalpy of formation of sodium chloride, we use the following reaction:
This process is made of many separate sub-processes, each with their own enthalpies. Therefore, we must take into account:
The sum of all these values will give the standard enthalpy of formation of sodium chloride.
Additionally, applying Hess's Law shows that the sum of the individual reactions corresponding to the enthalpy change of formation for each substance in the reaction is equal to the enthalpy change of the overall reaction, regardless of the number of steps or intermediate reactions involved. In the example above the standard enthalpy change of formation for sodium chloride is equal to the sum of the standard enthalpy change of formation for each of the steps involved in the process. This is especially useful for very long reactions with many intermediate steps and compounds.
Chemists may use standard enthalpies of formation for a reaction that is hypothetical. For instance carbon and hydrogen will not directly react to form methane, yet the standard enthalpy of formation for methane is determined to be -74.8 kJ mol−1 from using other known standard enthalpies of reaction with Hess's law. That it is negative shows that the reaction, if it were to proceed, would be exothermic; that is, it is enthalpically more stable than hydrogen gas and carbon.
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